WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- Two men have been arrested in connection with an auto theft ring in Weber County, officials said Tuesday.
Elijah Ray Palmer, 20, and Brandon Tyler Whitbeck, 29, along with other associates are believed to be responsible for nearly 20 vehicle thefts and other property crimes in Weber County, according to a press release from Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
Police say these crimes appear to be drug related.
The release states the group would target unlocked cars and steal power tools, electronics, credit cards and other items.
If keys were left inside the vehicle or if the cars were left running, the release states, the suspects would steal the car. The suspects would drive the stolen cars around while committing additional crimes.
The release states the suspects would sometimes abandon the cars on the side of the road or in a parking lot. If the vehicle wasn’t discovered as stolen, those in the auto theft ring would use the car again to commit more crimes.
Most of the vehicles have been recovered, the release states. The group also used stolen credit cards and bank cards at retail businesses, stealing thousands of dollars woth of merchandise.
Detectives got a lead on the case when Whitbeck was arrested in Davis County on charges of possession of a stolen vehicle.
Detectives located Palmer in West Haven on Jan. 27. The 20-year-old man was found in possession of a stolen Buick that had been taken earlier in the day in North Ogden, according to the release.
The owners of the Buick were in town preparing for the death of a loved one when the car was taken.
The release states there were several photo albums and pictures in the car but were not recovered when the vehicle was found.
According to the release, Palmer told investigators he threw the pictures and albums on the side of the road somewhere in Ogden. When informed of the circumstances surrounding the photos, Palmer apparently “felt bad” and agreed to take a detective to try and find them.
The photos were eventually found lying off the side of the road of Easy Street after searching for an extended period of time, the release states. The pictures have since been returned to the family.
Palmer was booked into Weber County Jail on four counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, a third-degree felony; two counts of vehicle burglary, a class A misdemeanor; possession of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony and possession of paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.
The investigation is ongoing.